Most women are afraid of turning into their mothers. I'm afraid of turning into my eighth grade Earth Science teacher.
At least once or twice each class, Mrs. Katz (five-foot-nothing, cat's eyes glasses) would stop mid-sentence, squint at the ceiling, and utter a long "uhhhhhhhhh" until she either recovered her train of thought or switched to another topic. Being 13 and therefore genetically programmed to be obnoxious, I alternated between finding this hilarious and exasperating. One time, during a particularly drawn-out "uhhhhhhhhh" episode, I could take it no longer and blurted out, "What?! WHAT?!" Needless to say, I was dismissed from class and given an "F" for the day.
But my true punishment has come years later: given the information overload that characterizes the times, my memory is probably far worse than Mrs. Katz's was and I have no doubt that my students find it just as annoying as I once did -- although, thankfully, they're in college, not middle school, and pretend not to notice. (Either that or they're simply not listening and therefore don't realize when I repeat myself.)
The same cannot be said for my husband and son who, mid-conversation, will often rudely insist, "You just said that." I'd never admit this to them, but I suspect they're telling the truth, especially when I see that should-I-commit-her-now-or-give-it-a-few-years look on Matt's face.
I've left the oven on overnight and locked my keys in the car and oftentimes have had to work really, really hard to recall the name of an extremely famous celebrity -- let's say George Clooney -- by first thinking of his attributes: handsome, charming, does that cute self-deprecating shake of his head, first name starts with a G...oh, yeah, George Clooney!
But those instances are nothing compared to the time I basically forgot that a phone and a remote control serve two completely different purposes. I tried changing the television channel by clicking on the keypad of my phone, and, sadly, it didn't occur to me for at least a solid minute why the damn channel wasn't changing.
Obviously, I'm far from alone in my sorry state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that one in eight Americans over the age of sixty reports worsening memory loss. Are they kidding? Sixty? I don't know a woman over forty who hasn't acquired "uhhhhhhhhh" as a significant addition to her vocabulary.
While memory loss is not exclusively a women's issue, it certainly seems to afflict women more. Some scientists cite genetics or diet or hormonal changes that occur during menopause (or perimenopause or postmenopause) as the culprits, thus justifying why memory loss seems to afflict women more than men. Some scientists simply don't understand women.
The real reason for women's paltry memories is obvious: our brains resemble our handbags. Both are cluttered with so much stuff that in order to add one more item, another one has to get chucked.
This theory can be easily borne out by simple observation. Women, open your handbag and inspect what's inside. It probably contains many if not all of the following items: hairbrush, lipstick, mascara, compact mirror, cell phone, tablet, two or three pens (one that's out of ink), wallet, keys, sunglasses, two or three crumpled tissues (one that's used), panty liner (hopefully not used), protein snack, random business cards, a receipt from the cleaners, a ticket stub to a movie from 2003, and crumbs of an indeterminate nature. Try squeezing one more thing in, say a small bag of pistachios, and you'll see what happens: your sunglasses will come flying out and you'll spend the rest of the day squinting, which will cause a line to form between your eyes which will cause you to get Botox injections. Clearly, overstuffing one's handbag is both ineffective and costly.
Now try stuffing one more thing into your hippocampus, the brain's memory center, and something that's already in there will come shooting out (where it goes, I have no idea).
So, what's a woman to do? There are all sorts of ways to supposedly help improve your memory: taking certain herbal supplements like gingko biloba, using mneumonic devices, and purchasing blueberries by the bushel for their antioxidant benefits. But, the surefire strategy my friends and I find most useful when we're together is to simply each pitch in with a word so that we'll ultimately construct a complete sentence. As the saying goes, it takes a village.
Looking back, I've come to realize that maybe Mrs. Katz wasn't some dotty lady of 105 as she appeared to me back then (in fact, she was probably in her fifties). And maybe it was cruel of me to poke fun of her the time she couldn't recall the name of the igneous rock she pulled out of her handbag the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. And, truly, anyone who teaches middle school deserves a Medal of Honor for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
The right thing to do is to try and locate Mrs. Katz and tell her I'm sorry. Nah, never mind. I'll forget to do it anyway.